01 Feb 2010

Sample Essay: Morality, Self- Control, And Crime

1.In the study entitled “Morality, Self-Control, and Crime,” the researchers aim to establish that the Self-Control Theory in association with morality is an effective predictor of criminal probability.  Previous studies in the past have established that self-control is a deterrence to deviant behavior.  Self-control is defined as the person’s capacity to avoid certain acts whose long-term implication could prove a disadvantage.  In some people, self-control is strong while others have weaker tendencies to avoid acts that go against the norms of society (Gottfredson, 2007).  The researchers want to affirm the universality of this assertion by applying the theory from a sample data from Lviv, Ukraine, a place in Europe that was previously under the rule of communist Soviet.  The researchers have chosen this place because of its economically evolving society.

Aside from studying the effect of self-control on people’s probable misconduct, the researchers have inserted another factor in the equation and to test whether this second factor has a stronger impact on crime compared to self-control.  They want to determine whether the morality of a person has any relation to his self-control as well as the indicators of crime.

Self-control theorists have placed it as the strongest factor keeping people from crime.  In recent years, moralists start to assert that morality is central to deterring crime. The researchers would want to know if there is an interrelation between these two factors.  They assume that people who lack moral principles have also low self control and are likely to commit criminal behavior, while those with strong moral convictions have also strong self control and are the least likely to commit deviant behavior.

2. The independent variables in this study are self-control and morality.  Self-control is an inherent attribute in some people while others have to consciously practice in order to acquire this characteristic.  In this study, self-control is an independent variable since it is one of the factors measured among the respondents that does not change (Cool-Science-Projects.com, n.d.).  Instead, the person’s responses to different situations vary depending on his self-control.  Morality is also an independent variable because like self-control, it will not change a person’s tendency to commit or not to commit crime or misconduct.  Both of these factors are used from a cognitive perspective.

The dependent variable in this study is crime because the performance of a deviant behavior will depend on the person’s morality and self-control (Cool-Science-Projects.com, n.d.).  Since crime covers a wide spectrum, the researchers limited this to seven force and fraud offenses and the participants’ likely performance of these identified crimes.  The changes in these variables are measured and correlated with the respondents’ morality and self-control.  In order to get a more meaningful result, the researchers have introduced five control variables.  These are gender, age, intactness of the family of origin during childhood, perceived family economic status during childhood, and childhood religiosity.  These control variable are necessary to avoid getting results from respondents coming from a widely varied personal background.

3.In order to obtain the data for analyzing the correlation among crime, self-control and morality, the researchers used a face-to-face interview method with 500 pre-qualified adults.  The adults in this study are chosen randomly using a specially designed selection process.  The design of this research calls for this kind of method in order to obtain the most accurate and relevant information (Trochim, 2006).  The selection of the respondents as well as the actual data collection were made by a professional survey organization that is based in Ukraine.

To find the eligible respondents for this survey, each must qualify in a two-stage sampling procedure.  The first requirement is for the person to live in first street routes in one of the six districts randomly chosen for the study.  Then, from among the households located on those identified districts, 70 percent from the number is used to draw 150 of the samples.  The rest of the 500 samples are chosen as random replacements.

After the face-to-face interview, each respondent is to answer a list of questions that are considered sensitive in nature, such as, past misconducts and moral feelings.

Although the respondents were not forced to join the study, they were given a monetary compensation for their participation.

4. The researchers’ review of prior literature is divided into two sub-sections.  The first one focuses on previous studies showing how self-control figures in people’s performance of crime. Reviewing literature related to self-control and crime at the start of the study is appropriate in order to establish how trends in recent years have made social scientists began to look for other factors in determining why people commit crime.  While it is generally accepted that crime is somehow caused by low self-control, this study’s review of literature has only drawn on some self-control studies and generalized their conclusions about its impact on criminality.  The researchers only mentioned those that are conducted in more recent years in order to make the data applicable to the present time.

The section discussing self-control studies is comparatively shorter compared to the section on morality.  The researchers have explained early on that one of the important goals of this study is to establish the role of morality in crime.  Since self-control has been widely studied, the researchers chose to focus more on morality.  In trying to probe how morality could impact the person’s actions, the researchers attempted to validate Wikstrom’s 2006 study that concludes morality is the basic factor in acts of crime.  Most of this section expounds on the different arguments that Wikstrom has presented to support his claim particularly on the validity of the Situational Action Theory, which makes weak morality, in opposition to self-control, as the most important factor in crimes.

Overall, the literature review is somewhat limited but nonetheless, they are adequate to provide a significant background why the present study is important.

5.Based on research findings, the researchers believed that there is greater evidence supporting weak morality as a determinant of criminality compared to self-control.  The research also confirmed that self-control is a factor that contributes to people committing deviant behavior.  However, the researchers also did not find a strong correlation between self-control and morality.  Each factor is independent of one another.  Because of this weak correlation, a contention now exists on what factor is stronger in pushing an individual towards an action that is considered wrong by society.

Self-control theorists have proven many times in the past that this factor is the underlying reason why criminality is rampant in the world.  For many years, this belief has been widely accepted until such time that new studies show the possibility of another factor being more powerful than self-control.  With the creation of the Situational Action Theory, social scientists would have to conduct further studies to determine which of the two could claim to be at the root of the problem.

6.This research cannot be generalized for several reasons.  Weak morality as the root of crime is a new concept that needs to be further validated by additional studies across all cultures in different parts of the world.  The researchers have explained that their focus is the city of Lviv because of the changing dynamics of a culture that has recently emerged from socialism to embrace capitalist ideas and ideals.  Being the case, it should be noted that the Lviv case is unique and does not represent many cultures around the world.  It could be applicable to other countries experiencing the same changes, like many countries in Eastern Europe.  But for other countries with a more stable environment, like those in the West, the results could changed significantly.  The same dynamics are not true for the more stable capitalist states whose populace’s morality and self-control are governed by other factors.  Thinking of generalizations at this point would be too premature.  Human nature is highly complex and could change depending on many external and internal factors surrounding him.

It will take more time, possibly years, and several studies of observing society before the implications of this research could solidify.  It may be true that morality has a stronger effect on individuals compared to self-control but it is also likely that both play equal roles in other cultures.  There are too many possibilities arising from this research that it is not probable at present to create generalizations that would speak for the entire world.  What other researchers should do is to expand the sample population to include other societies and other races.  The control variables should also be changed to see a more diverse result.

7.A research design should be created in such a manner that the most relevant information are obtained without prejudice.  The sampling method is rather restrictive considering that the participants are all above 18 years old.  It has to be remembered that many offenses in society today are perpetrated by minors.  It would have been more useful if the age range has been changed to include minors.

Adults are more likely to have an established set of moral views and higher self-control, except in cases when the person has psychological issues.  Adults generally can handle themselves better making the results inapplicable to a larger population.  Youth respondents in any culture are more interesting since they have the capacity to vary greatly in terms of thinking and perspectives.

The researchers, though, have not claimed that their intention for conducting the research is to make their hypotheses applicable to a bigger context.  They have stated that their expectations are only limited to a certain group of people.  Using a quantitative method to obtain a correlation is also appropriate (Hopkins, 2000).  In this regard, the research design is appropriate.  Others in the field are left with many possibilities for further exploration.

8.The data presentation and discussion are done in a manner that makes it easy for the ready to understand what the researchers have found out.  Discussion goes directly to the point, wherein results show that a stronger correlation exists between morality and crime.  The discussion avoids using technicalities that would confuse the non-expert.

The results are important since they provide a new perspective concerning factors that push people to commit crime.  It highlights important aspects concerning morality and its role in society.  This will make society realize and evaluate the current state morality among the people.  However, the researchers have pointed out several limitations in the study particularly on the sample population that could make the results less applicable to a bigger population.  With the existence of this significant limitations, the results’ substance is affected.

9.This study opens a lot of possibilities for further studies as a result of various questions arising from the present hypotheses.  These questions or hypotheses include:

is this applicable to all changing economies

is this applicable to the youths of those economies

is this applicable to capitalist states

are morality and self-control really independent of each other when Christian doctrine suggests that self-control is a product of morality (Knight, 2009)

Naturally, the next wave of researches would focus on the validity of finding morality as a stronger factor over self-control by using respondents from other cultures, age group, and by increasing the number of respondent.

10.Some of the potential drawbacks of this research are: making society put pressure on people to adopt stricter moral principles; the Churches using this study to preach about morality; and the undermining of self-control as a deterrence factor in controlling crime.  Previous teachings about self-control should not be disregarded while everyone focuses on morality.  From a Christian perspective, this study could create confusion and divert people from what is essential.  Efforts at stopping crime should not change just because morality is emerging as a factor.  Instead, experts should design their programs to include both self-control and morality.


Gottfredson, M.R.  (2007).  Self-control theory.  Blackwell Reference Online. Retrieved April   23, 2009, from http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=     g9781405124331_chunk_g978140512433125_ss1-70

Hopkins, W.G.  (2000).  Quantitative research design.  Sportscience, 4.  Retrieved April 23,        2009, from http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0001/wghdesign.html

Independent and dependent variables. Cool-Science-Projects.com. Retrieved April 23, 2009,   from http://www.cool-science-projects.com/independent-and-dependent-variables.html

Knight, K.  (2009).  Morality.  Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 23, 2009, from             http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10559a.htm

Trochim, W.M.K.  (2006, October 20).  Design.  Research Methods: Knowledge Base.    Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/design.php

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